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Institutes and Initiatives

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The institutes draw together faculty and students from across disciplines within the university to create teams working on common problems in collaboration with partners in the world.

Stanford has a history of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration through institutes that support teams of researchers focused on challenges that span disciplines. For more than a decade, the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy have inspired collaborations in energy and the environment and engaged with external partners locally and globally.

The Woods and Precourt Institutes will be moving within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, where their research and programs can have even more impact, and they will be joined by the new Institute for Sustainable Societies. Together, they will fund interdisciplinary scholarship, accelerate hiring of key faculty and staff, support cross-cutting curricula to engage undergraduate and graduate students, and other activities that draw the entire university into sustainability research and education.

Over time, each of the institutes will add initiatives that bring in new faculty hires, provide seed funding for collaborative research, and offer programmatic support.


Woods Institute for the Environment

The mission of the Woods Institute is to produce breakthrough environmental knowledge and solutions that sustain people and planet today and for generations to come. They are working toward a future in which societies meet people’s needs for water, food, health, and other vital services while sustaining the planet.

Woods centers, programs and initiatives

New initiatives

Sustainable food systems

Assess, evaluate, and model the environmental impacts of terrestrial and marine food systems, to support transitions toward healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable food production.

Freshwater solutions

Develop and test the policies, approaches, and technologies needed to ensure sufficient quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, and ecosystem functioning, while reducing the climate impact of freshwater management and use.

Healthy planet, Healthy people

Identify the ways in which climate and land use change impact human health, enabling the development of solutions that tackle environmental and public health challenges together.

Natural climate solutions

Identify nature-based approaches that can help mitigate climate change through carbon capture and storage, while generating important health, economic, and livelihood co-benefits for people and ecosystems.

Biodiversity & conservation

Identifying, understanding, and developing strategies to protect biological diversity at all scales. Exploring the contributions of genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity to well-being, including food and medicine production, environmental regulation, and nature-based recreation.


Precourt Institute for Energy

The Precourt Institute is focused on creating a world with sustainable, affordable, secure energy for all by concentrating the talents of the university on energy research and education, from basic science and technology to policy and business.

Precourt initiatives, centers and programs

New initiatives

The climate economy

Identify market-based approaches and policy and regulatory tools that enhance human well-being while protecting our environment, in areas such as finance, food production, fashion, waste as a resource, and lower-carbon materials.

Data science for decision making

Harness advances in data analytics and artificial intelligence to further sustainability goals, from high frequency monitoring that can ”take the pulse of the planet” to digitization of manufacturing in support of emissions reduction efforts.

Energy technology solutions

Advance transformational energy technology in renewable fuels, long-term energy storage and lower-carbon materials.

Infrastructure system solutions

Advance adoption of climate-adaptive public service infrastructure in water, energy, transportation, and other sectors, enhancing flexibility and resilience from the building to the regional scale.


Institute for Sustainable Societies

The new Institute for Sustainable Societies builds on the interdisciplinary model pioneered by Woods and Precourt and adds critical new attention to issues of institutional and economic infrastructure, and the politics of transitioning to more sustainable ways of life.

New initiatives

Culture, behavior & communications

Develop and test strategies that motivate individuals, groups, and communities to adopt impactful and sustainable behaviors.

Environmental governance

Identify and scale effective models of governance and institutional change, accelerating progress toward climate and sustainability goals from the local to the global scale.

Environmental justice

Reveal how poverty and injustice cause and are caused by unsustainable development, in order to develop strategies that can reduce inequities while protecting the environment. 

Sustainable cities

Develop climate-smart approaches for city growth and management, such as decarbonizing the built environment and protecting biodiversity, to drive more sustainable, equitable models of urban development.